Understanding the politics of shelter in three African cities; the contribution of political settlements

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This article analyses the politics of shelter provision in three African cities, focusing on the needs of, and provision for, the low- and middle-income residents. The significance of housing to citizen well-being means that governments influence multiple facets of land and shelter, affecting the shelter options realizable for urban residents. The framework of political settlements is increasingly used to understand national political outcomes. In this paper it is used to analyse shelter outcomes at the city scale. In all three cities, national political elites have influenced housing outcomes. In the two capital cities, elites use clientelism (backed up by violence) to advantage themselves and influential local groups. Approaches to housing are used to gain political legitimacy (both through the ideas that the built environment can encapsulate and through improved access to housing). In all three cities, territorial controls are used to influence electoral outcomes (with consequences for housing outcomes). The findings reinforce the importance of understanding the political context within which shelter outcomes emerge. They also highlight that more needs to be understood about the relation of sub-national politics to national-level political settlements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103797
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Housing
  • Political settlements
  • Shelter
  • Urban politics

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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